I Hate Cyber Mondays

Happy Cyber Monday…or, as I call it: Monday. Because it’s neither more cyber than Sunday or Tuesday, nor more indicative of Christmas sales volume, nor even particularly bargain-filled for shoppers. In other words: hype. 

One thing about the intersection of the Internet and the world of marketing -- apart from the fact that nobody remembered to erect stop signs -- is that all involved tend to exaggerate that which does not matter and babble insipidly over that which really does.

For instance, over the holiday weekend, while you were busy lying about how juicy the turkey was, over in Europe the head of the World Federation of Advertisers was sounding the alarm about ad blocking -- i.e., the phenomenon that’s squeezing out what little life remains in the advertising and media industries. Managing Director Stephan Loerke offered a three-point plan, beginning with:



"The internet advertising experience is not satisfactory for consumers. As brand owners, we have to take a longer-term view and create an acceptable, sustainable advertising environment -- not push things to people in a way that turns them off."

Point 2 was “We have to alter time, space and the laws of economics,” and Point 3 was “We have to neutralize ISIS using Upworthy.” 

See, Stephan, here’s the thing: No CMO ever convened the team to say, “How can we push more and more consumers away by feeding more ad units, no matter how irrelevant or repetitive, more intrusively?” And no publisher ever said, “How can we slow down the loading times on our pages and spike our users’ data charges with a bunch of irritating crap that keeps them from viewing the stuff we publish and they want to see?”

Dude, it’s a structural problem not solved with three-point plans. See, for one thing, nobody will look at online or mobile ads unless the ad is jammed directly into their corneas, because why would they? Why? And secondly, because there is a (nearly infinite) glut of ad inventory, CPMs are so low no publisher can make the nut without serving more and more units, each trying to slap the user upside the face for just an instant of attention.

And the more the ads intrude, the more the slap-happy users install ad blockers. “Not push things to people in a way that turns them off?” Excellent plan! Barring a $600 billion Cyber Monday gift card to the global publishing sector, your choices are osmosis and hypnosis. Pick one.

Because -- without magical intervention -- you cannot have a quality user experience and an advertising model in the same universe. Just look at Instant Articles, the closest thing to magic that publishers have seen in the past 20 years. Expanded reach, fast-loading content, perhaps even higher CPMs due to better targeting and a 100-to-0 rev share with the host platform in the publishers’ favor. Assuming (heh heh) that Facebook doesn’t renege later -- among other risks -- it would seem to be a sublime win-win-win.

Except, as The Wall Street Journalpointed out Cyber Two Weeks Ago, the very restrictions imposed to ensure a pleasant user experience are choking off the ad revenue the publishers need to keep the lights on. 

Michael Reckhow, Facebook’s Instant Articles product manager, said the company received feedback from publishers and is now testing out changes to its Instant Articles ads policies, such as allowing more ads per article and ad formats that were barred previously 

And therrrrrrre goes user experience down the slippery slope. Just wondering how Facebook reacts when the ad blockers kick in.  

Like I said, a structural problem. The ad load and consumer experience are reciprocals. That, Stephan, is why prescribing the impossible is not a strategy. And awaiting magic is not a business plan.

6 comments about "I Hate Cyber Mondays".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Kim Stuart from, November 30, 2015 at 1:19 p.m.

    "No CMO ever convened the team to say, “How can we push more and more consumers away by feeding more ad units, no matter how irrelevant or repetitive, more intrusively?”"

    Maybe not, but plenty of them have said "how can we get more and more money by selling advertisers a bunch of junk views that will never convert on anything..."

  2. Mikko Kotila from, December 1, 2015 at 7:36 a.m.

    ok people...let's all walk away from the link-bait, and breathe.

    Bob, you make my heart pound. But not in a nice way. I think it has something to do with the pent up anger we both share in regads to the advertising industry. And yes, I tried hate, despise and trolling, but it did not work. I don't think it was because of lack of skill though. 

    Instead of all this passive and outright agression, we need to learn to care more about each other, and we need to be more understanding to each other's shortcomings when we think we have come across it. Otherwise things will just get worse. 

    You know more than 50 years ago, a guy walked in to the office of a man named Larry and said he had an idea of "an intergalactic web" and that he had no idea how to build it, but he knew that it was important. That man was the then research lead of ARPANET. Later he said that Lick (the dude with the idea) was the one who started it all, and that everyone else in their group just ended up working on Lick's ideas. That's the internetz.

    Also I suggest that according to latest literarure in change management, behavior change and culture change it is fair to say that when the world change, it can do so VERY fast. Sometimes it takes longer, but one thing we know, things always keeps changing. In my opinion, there is nothing more admirable at this point than someone who has the courage of laying out things as they need to be layed out.

    We all have to make a decision in regards to this topic: 

    - become part of change for good
    - become part of change for bad
    - become an antagonist to change for good
    - become an antagonist to change for bad 
    - neutral  

    As there are only these 5 options if you want to take a position in the first place, it's easy for all of us to think about our decisions, our comments and the comments of others, in respect to which of the 5 it falls under. 

    Last but not least, we can point our fingers all day long, and I think in many cases do (no wonder my fingers feel tired often), but what we often are not able to do is change ourselves. Which is an irony, as we have no control over the behaviour of others, but all the control over our own. 

    Christmas is coming, santa is listening, let's all be nice ok?


  3. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, December 1, 2015 at 8:51 a.m.

    As I keep pointing out, the digital problem with too many ads and their intrusiveness is not the same as TV's problem. In the latter case, viewers know that there will be breaks for commercials that interrupt program content. Indeed, said content is designed with this in mind, so scenes in a drama or sitcom aren't suddenly broken up by ads and many shows fade into their ad breaks or announce them, saying, in effect, "We'll be back shortly". So TV's problem is mainly the rising amount of ad and other promotional clutter per break and, in many cases, the number of breaks.

    In contrast, digital ads pop up almost randomly, often blocking the user from navigating as well as interferring with the use of content. The user never knows if he/she will be able to peruse any content to any level of satisfaction.

    The obvious solution, and it has worked well, albeit not perfectably, for TV as well as radio, would be for digital ad sellers---at least for video ads---to organize these in breaks that do not interrupt the access to well defined content segments. In other words, if a particular page or two, features some form of unique content, let the user stay on that page as long as he/she wants, without adding any ads. Once that sequence is broken, and a new segment of content is about to appear, insert another short ad break, then, let the user read the new content without further interruption. If the content involves many pages, create brief pauses at logical points in the series for short breaks, then allow the user to resume reading for another uninterrupted period---just like TV.

    I recognize that such a suggestion will meet with opposition, but I believe that it is the only way out of this mess. In other words, organize your content---editorial as well as ads----so users know the latter are coming and, like TV, can avoid them if they desire to. At the same time, allow users who are engaged by some item of content freedom to read it without interuption.

  4. Christopher Weakley from Virgo, December 1, 2015 at 8:25 p.m.

    Digital advertising is like litter on the beach. You toss your gum wrapper on the sand and think, "it's just one piece of paper and the beach is so huge. It won't bother anyone." Then one day you spread out your towel and notice there's litter everywhere. I think CMOs (and the people who report to them) use the same logic to justify their use of banner ads, page takeovers and pre-roll videos. Whether they admit it or not, they think "it's just one little campaign and the Internet is so huge. It won't bother anyone." Well, consumers have figured out a way to clean up the problem. It's called ad blocking.

  5. Nancy Brinson from University of Texas at Austin, December 5, 2015 at 8:51 a.m.

    This conundrum is one area of focus for my doctoral studies here at The Stan Richards School of Advertising at the University of Texas at Austin. I believe the solution will be found not in offering "AdChoices", but consumer choice. Some people are willing to be bombarded with ads if it means continued access to free content. Others want no ads at all (or more importantly, they do not want their behavior to be tracked by advertisers and third parties). Those folks will need to pony up for the content they want, either via subscriptions or some other type of paywall (remember pay per view?). Most people seem to be in the middle -- they don't mind if preferred and trusted first parties have access to their data in exchange for meaningful content. They are essentially using their "digital currency" (i.e. behavioral data) to purchase access to the content they want. The way the system is structured now, individuals are not being granted the right to control their digital currency. Advertisers, publishers and third parties are just snatching it up, often without consumers' knowledge or consent. A simple and fair exchange system that allows consumers to knowingly trade their data with the first parties of their choosing for the content they desire is a solution worth considering.

  6. Michael Elling from IVP Capital, LLC replied, December 6, 2015 at 4:56 p.m.


    Your characterization of internetz originz is spot-on!

    It was a bunch of guys building a "private" network protocol where trust wasn't an issue.  (Nor was congestion).

    But public networks need settlement systems that scale and provide price signals and (dis)incentives between actors (both north-south and east-west).

    That's the only way we develop true inter-network effect across all the balkanized silos and islands.

    But a bill and keep, or settlement-free, interconnection model does not allow core procurement or subsidization of edge demand in a fashion that scales across all platforms and apps and factors in marginal consumption.  This applies to advertising as well.  There is no coordination and its application is based on "trust".

    Good luck solving this one!



Next story loading loading..